by Bear Chirol

Do you know my friends that the first steam-boat experiment was conducted in Lyon ?

Marquis Claude Jouffroy d’Abbans ( 1751-1832 )

When you walk on the right hand-river side of the Saône (a little more than one kilometer from « l’homme de la roche = Jean Kleberger), you can see a plate very close to the Cathédrale St Jean in the UNESCO site of « Le vieux Lyon ».

This tribute is given to the Marquis Claude Jouffroy d’Abbans (1751-1832).

A very adventurous life, with a military beginning cut by a stay in jail, after a quarrel for a love-affair…

During 2 years at Sainte-Marguerite Island (1772-74) he spent his time looking at ships and learning sciences…

In 1776, with the help of Mr Pourchot, a boiler maker, he built his first boat « le Palmipède », a steam-engine that operated oars looking like flippers. It was the first time a steam boat was floated.

It was located on the Bassin de Gondé, near Baume-les-Dames where the Cuzancin joins the Doubs river, in June and July of 1776. But the experimentation was abandoned because of the impossibility to cross the locks due to the flippers, too blocking.

Pyroscaphe steamboat by Pierre Méjanel (1900)

After many problems with his partners, his family, he decided to study near Besançon a new project, the Pyroscaphe, a 46 m long boat of 182 barrels with his new company created in 1881 in Lyon. He was helped by Antoine Frerejean, a forge-master. Then, on the 15th of July 1783 he succeded in going upstream on about 5 kilometers long between St Jean Cathedral and Barbe Island during 15 minutes !

Ten thousand people was attending this spectacular and technological show of a steam-boat equiped with paddle-wheels.

bateau à vapeur de Jouffroy d’Abbans

This system was imagined since 13 centuries earlier but powered by animals or men.

Robert Fulton much more famous than Jouffroy wrote himself : «  If this glory should be given to only one man it would be to Jouffroy d’Abbans in 1783 for the experiment on the Saône-river in Lyon »

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